Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Strange criticism

James Melody kindly posted a link to my post about the Mandatum to Facebook, with a complimentary comment.

A chap called Ruari McCallion, whom I have yet to have the pleasure of meeting, quoted me and added a comment, thus:
"The second is that it risks confirming a modern anthropological error: that male and female are trivial, not essential, differences. It risks appearing to bow at the altar of a modern understanding of what it means to be a woman (or a man); an understanding that sees contraception, promiscuity, and abortion as stepping stones along the road to true equality." 
You might think that's the best you've read on the subject so far; I fear I must respectfully disagree, James. Ivereigh was markedly less excitable; maybe he has a less fertile imagination?
I like to model my response to criticism on that of PG Wodehouse, about which I have blogged before.  I am glad, though slightly bemused, that Ruari found that post, and (I assume) in particular the paragraph he quoted, to be both exciting and imaginative. 

Yet I also gather (for I am a perceptive sort, under my hearty bluster) that these were the very reasons he disagreed with James' positive assessment of my comments; and that Ivereigh's dullness and lack of imagination were in fact reasons to prefer his take to mine.

All of which is very strange, when you think about it.

I may, of course, be quite wrong in my analysis in the post he is criticising; but nowhere does Ruari say where that is. I have already said what I think of Ivereigh's piece, so won't dwell on that, other than to say I think it was a more imaginative take on reality than mine.

But it does strike me as fairly typical of many such discussions that rather than dwell on the arguments, the stress is laid on the (perceived) tone.

My argument in that paragraph is straightforward, I thought. But maybe I assumed too much and should unpack it a bit.

We are confronted in our time with two very different understandings of the meaning of male and female. On the one hand the Church has always seen these are inherent in the meaning of the creation of man. The complementarity of man and woman is part of the divine plan, and their unity in the nuptial union is the means of the generation of new life, the establishment of the family, the mirror of Christ's relationship with the Church, and so on. Man and woman are equal in dignity, yet distinct in nature. This difference is one of the reasons that it is not in any way unjust that they have different roles they may legitimately fulfil: motherhood is only for women; fatherhood, and also priesthood, only for men. This is a deep and fundamental truth which we continue to understand in more depth as the Church reflects and develops her teaching (not least under the papacy of St John Paul II).

On the other hand, the contemporary progressive view is that male and female are somewhat superficial differences; some go so far as to say that they are largely social constructs. Equality must mean parity in all things and anything that may prevent women from aspiring to anything a man may do is ipso facto unjust. Thus contraception, promiscuity, and abortion come to be seen, as I remarked originally, as 'stepping stones along the road to true equality.'

I think that is fairly uncontentious, (though perhaps I am naive). Therefore I conclude that the part which Ruari finds imaginative and exciting is to say that the arbitrary change of the Church's liturgy to include women in a rite that was formerly exclusive to men 'risks appearing to bow at the altar of a modern understanding of what it means to be a woman (or a man).' Yet, again, I think that risk is real and evident. It seems to me precisely how modern liberal-minded people will interpret the Holy Father's change. 'Ah, the Church is making one more, slow, belated step to recognising what we all know: that women and men are equal in every way, and that all discrimination against women is a legacy of misguided (or worse) patriarchy.'

But because Ruari never actually addresses anything I said, it is hard to know if I am on the right track here. 

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